Darren Clarke’s wait for a first title since getting his hands on the famed Claret Jug continued as Ernie Els won in a remarkable finish to the SAS Championship.
The Dungannon favourite Clarke had entered the final round shared for the lead at nine-under par as he went in search of a first Tour victory since the Open in 2011.
However, try as he might, the 52-year old was unable to find momentum, carding five bogeys and just three birdies before eventually signing for a two-over par round of 74 for a tied 11th finish at seven-over par.
With names like Montgomerie, Singh, Toms, Langer and Els all in the mix, somehow you just knew Sunday was going to have fireworks and it was the one nicknamed the Big Easy who produced them when it mattered most.
Els birdied the final two holes, running in a 40-footer in the rain on the last, for a six-under 66 and a one-stroke victory over Montgomerie.
The South African made the long putt on the par-4 18th three weeks after missing a 2-foot putt on the final hole of the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach to finish a stroke out of a playoff.
“It’s a crazy game,” Els said. “A couple of weeks ago I missed a very short putt to get in a playoff and today I make a 40-footer. Figure that one out.”
Jim Furyk missed a chance to become the first player to win his first three PGA Tour Champions events, closing with a 70 to tie for ninth at 8 under — four strokes behind Els.
Els won for the second time in his first 10 starts on the PGA Tour Champions. The South African star, a four-time major champion with 19 PGA Tour titles, finished at 12-under 204 at Prestonwood Country Club. He pointed to putting help from fellow player Mark O’Meara.
“Just by chance I saw him on the putting green the other day and we just started chatting a little bit,” Els said.
“He uses the same putter that I use, so we started talking a little bit and I said, `Hey, have a look here.′ I didn’t have a great experience at Pebble obviously a couple weeks ago. He looked at me, and he’s a great putter and knowing a man that long, he gave me a nice assist. He told me what he felt I should do and here I am. So, I owe Mark O’Meara.”
Els tied Montgomerie, playing three groups behind, with the birdie on the par-5 17th and pulled ahead on 18.
“I had 64 in mind,” Els said. “Especially on the final round, the guys, there were so many guys bunched. I was coming from 6 under, I reckoned 14 under was maybe a good score, but then the conditions helped out and it became really tough. So, 66 just squeaked in there.”
Vijay Singh (70) was third at 10 under. Austin (72) was 9 under with Gene Sauers (67), Robert Karlsson (68), Kirk Triplett (69 ) and David Toms (71).
Clarke (74) tied for 11th at 7 under, collecting $46,200 for the result.
Full scoring HERE